Ghazal 61, Verse 3


fanaa-ta((liim-e dars-e be-;xvudii huu;N us zamaane se
kih majnuu;N laam alif likhtaa thaa diivaar-e dabistaa;N par

1) I am oblivion-{instructing/instructed/writing/copying} in the lesson of self-lessness since that era/time
2) when Majnun used to write laam alif on the wall of the schoolhouse


ta((liim : 'Informing, teaching, instructing; tuition, instruction; --copying finely, writing accurately'. (Platts p.327)


Both 'oblivion' and 'instruction' are fresh vocabulary, and the construction that joins both words is Persian-- that is, 'oblivion-instruction' has become an adjective referring to a person who has been instructed in oblivion. And this lesson which it has given is self-lessness. And the author has rejected alif-be [A,B] in favor of laam-alif [L,A] because when both letters are put together they become laa ['without'], which has an affinity with 'oblivion'. (60)

== Nazm page 60

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, I received instruction in oblivion at a time when Majnun was a schoolboy and drew the lines of individual letters on the schoolhouse walls as children do. When laam and alif are put together they make laa , and from laa ill;aah the venerable Sufis say that the clash of negation and affirmation is generated. (107)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, at a time when Majnun didn't even understand that laa means 'oblivion', I had already been honored with the rank of 'oblivion in God'. (137)


BEKHUDI: {21,6}
WRITING: {7,3}

The commentators explicate the most obvious reading: a boast of my superiority over Majnun. I was already highly 'oblivion-instructed', or was even 'oblivion-instructing', or was finely copying or writing 'oblivion', in the lesson of 'self-lessness' (meaning not generosity, but self-transcendence), when Majnun was a mere schoolboy only beginning to learn the alphabet.

In the process of learning, Majnun used to write laam alif on the schoolhouse wall. If these two letters are joined, they become laa , a fundamental word: a negation meaning in Arabic 'no, not, without'. And if the two letters are taken as initiating two separate words, they stand for laa ill;aah , the beginning of the Arabic for 'There is no God but God', which is not only the start of the Muslim profession of faith, but also, as Bekhud Dihlavi points out, a Sufi mystical phrase.

And yet, 'since that era' [us zamaane se] can mean not only temporal sequence, but also an implied causality. It could be that what made me so 'oblivion-instructed' was in fact the sight of Majnun writing laa on the schoolhouse wall. Was it the childish Majnun's precocious mystical wisdom-- his choice of writing 'nothing' [laa] instead of 'a,b,c' [alif-be]? Or was it my foreknowledge of his emblematic fate that made his childish scrawl so affecting and revelatory to me? Either way, it was from this sight that I obtained instruction in oblivion. Thus I report this coincidence of events not as a boast of superiority over him, but as a tribute to the role he played-- perhaps unknowingly-- in my own mystical education.